For many fans of British Ice Hockey, the name Fred Perlini conjures up a host of happy memories.
The ex-Toronto Maple Leafs forward arrived on these shores in 1986 and immediately made a big impact, notching over 300 points in less than 100 games, during two seasons with Nottingham Panthers and Fife Flyers.
Perlini continued his prolific form over the next three years, bagging more than 450 points during spells with Deeside Dragons, Trafford Metros, Telford Tigers and Blackburn Blackhawks.
He played six more seasons for Streatham Redskins, Basingstoke Beavers, Lee Valley Lions and Guildford Flames, eventually ending his playing career in 1996 with over 1,800 points across the British leagues.
The Canadian was appointed as Head of Junior Hockey at Guildford, spending a further eleven years coaching various Flames junior teams. His number 11 shirt was retired during the 2000/01 season for his outstanding contribution to the club both on and off the ice.
His passion for coaching was initially triggered during his time at Deeside and subsequently Trafford, where he played alongside fellow Canadians Mike Oliverio and Marc Dampsousse.
Perlini said: “We had a good team of British boys alongside the three of us and I learned a lot that year as a coach. Scoring came easy but coaching was tough, so I prepared my summer to come back a better coach as my playing skills were on a par with my previous seasons.
“Trafford couldn’t honour the second year of my contract, so I ended up playing in Blackburn. It was exciting at the time. Dan Holden was the other import and the team had some really good talent. Some of my friends from Trafford were there which made the move easier.
“With a new team in a new building and a new fanbase, Pete Murray asked if I could help on and off the ice and I did the best I could to help put hockey on the map.
“I thought we had a good season and we set the roots for the programme to move forward. I met a lot of good people in Blackburn and we really enjoyed our time there.
“I stay in touch with a lot of players from that time through social media, and everyone seems to be doing well.”
After heading south, Perlini’s big opportunity to lay down some roots came in 1994 with Guildford. He enjoyed three prolific seasons with the Flames, continuing to trouble the scorers with over 400 points from just over 150 games.
His role with the club’s junior programme saw him take charge of six teams, with around 120 players to coach every year. His sons, Brett and Brendan, came through the system at Guildford and Perlini says the position brought him a lot of satisfaction.
“It was a lot work – heading up the programme, coaching, tournaments throughout Europe and the UK, but it led to many friendships which we still hold to this day,” he said.
“The programme was a success and still is today and I’m very proud of that. Both my boys have been drafted to the NHL.
“Brett was in the sixth round to Anaheim and he’s now playing professionally in the AHL. He’s just come off a full ride scholarship at Michigan State and has a great education.
“Brendan was born in Guildford. He was a first round pick to Arizona and is currently playing in the OHL. He also represented Team Canada at the recent World Junior Championships and will turn professional next season.
“I’m very proud of my boys and the commitment and dedication they have, and no matter what the obstacles they stay with it and always give 100%.
“The NHL is their dream and that’s where their focus is. I believe they will achieve this soon.
“They’re both better players than I was, but more importantly they are good kids and very grounded towards family and friends and what is truly important to them is giving back and helping others.”
(Image permissions: TPG Hockey & Walter Bayliss)